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 Gala Benefits AIDSOne of New York’s most prominent events in support of AIDS research is the annual amFAR Gala, which will take place this year on Feb. 8. Included in the star-studded guest list are Donatella Versace, Scarlett Johansson, Woody Allen, Heidi Klum and Lady Gaga. Lena Dunham, popularly known for her role in the HBO drama series, Girls, will host the event.

Since the American Foundation for AIDS Research’s first event in 1998, the annual amFAR Gala has collected more than $17 million in donations. With tickets starting at $1,750 and ending at $75,000, the black-tie event will include cocktails, dinner, a live auction and a special performance by Ellie Goulding. The gala serves to highlight the progress made in HIV/AIDS awareness and research. The event honors and recognizes those that have joined the fight against HIV/AIDS by donating.

Globally, 36.7 million people are affected by HIV/AIDS — 1.8 million of those being children who have most commonly inherited the disease during pregnancy or through breastfeeding. A majority of those infected live in poverty-stricken countries in the Asia-Pacific region and sub-Saharan Africa. Currently, the Asia-Pacific region accounts for 60 percent of the world’s population and has the highest rate of HIV infection. Sub-Saharan Africa is home to more than 25.6 million people living with HIV.

Because of advancements in AIDS research funding by organizations such as amFAR, 18.2 million people infected with the disease are able to receive treatment. AmFAR’s funding has led to the implementation of numerous programs worldwide that are used to both encourage and distribute treatment. Specifically, amFAR has been a source of international support through various programs. These programs include the TREAT program in Asia which focuses on building clinics and educations centers that provide treatment and prevention education. Nepal has received amFAR’s assistance through the creation of educational programs for HIV. Studies carried out by amFAR in Kenya have further revealed modes of disease transmission.

Since its founding in 1985, amFAR has invested more than $450 million toward AIDS research, which has led to the creation of numerous programs and developments in the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS. It is because of these advancements that the celebrity community can come together at New York’s 18th annual amFAR Gala this February to honor the progress accomplished by contributing individuals.

Amy Williams

Photo: Flickr

Amnesty_International
More than 400 human rights advocates, including actors, directors, fashion designers and many more signed an open letter to Amnesty International asking the organization to vote against the decriminalization of the sex industry.

The proposed policy that these advocates are referring to backs the legalization of brothels and pimping. The policy asks for the support of all acts of selling sex to be lawful, but for sex buying to remain illegal.

After learning about Amnesty International’s intention, hundreds of noticeable individuals joined an international public campaign. The campaigners urged the organization to reevaluate their plans and to stand with those who are oppressed in the sex trade.

The letter declares that advocates agree that those who are prostituted must not be outlawed by law enforcement, and that the legalization of selling sex contributes to poverty, homelessness, sexual abuse and discrimination.

Many young children who are forced into the sex trade will not earn an education and will likely contract sexually transmitted diseases. Without healthy and educated citizens, a developing area cannot improve economically.

The cycle of poverty continues because poverty contributes to the sex trade. According to Medical News Today, many families in impoverished areas sell their children into the trade. Sometimes, children and young adults will seek out the trade to earn wages for food and shelter.

Former Irish prostitute Mia de Faoite said that the policy proposal advocating these means of earnings is absolutely unacceptable.

“I can find no justification for those crimes, and I believe that no one is able to justify such human wickedness,” de Faoite said.

She also said this policy move contradicts the organization’s ideals for human rights.
“Amnesty would agree with me, I am sure, and would fight alongside me to find justice, if I asked,” de Faoite said. “This is confusing to me, and it makes no sense because, on the other hand, they are prepared to sanction the behavior that led to this crime.”

A Change.org petition that petitions a “non-profit industrial complex” by Amnesty International agrees with de Faoite. The petition states that with this new policy, the organization will ultimately be harming those who Amnesty International claims to help.

“With this proposal, Amnesty International is moving away from human rights advocacy,” the petition said.

About 500 members of the international human rights organization will meet in Ireland for Amnesty’s 32nd International Council Meeting, where they are projected to approve the decriminalization of sex work. The vicious cycle of poverty will be promoted by Amnesty International’s proposal if there is not a change similar to the one proposed in the open letter.

The letter was signed by celebrities such as author Hannah Pakula, poet Rose Styron, actress Meryl Streep, Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist Anna Quindlen, chef Alice Waters and 2008 Amnesty International Human Rights Award winner Lydia Cacho. Other celebrity signers include Emily Blunt, Lena Dunham, Anne Hathaway, Lisa Kudrow, Kate Winslet and Emma Thompson.

This level of support for the change has helped achieve such a grand presence in human rights that there is now a campaign on Change.org for the modification. The letter is still open for more signatures.

To sign the letter and learn more about Amnesty International’s policy, click here.

Fallon Lineberger

Sources: Change.org, Look to the Stars, Medical News Today, Independent News Ireland
Photo: Vanity Fair

Syrian_Refugees
Jessica Watson would like to see children around the world pursue their dreams. In order for that to happen, she must first tackle world hunger.

The 22 year old is a Youth Ambassador for the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP). Hailing from Queensland, Australia and awarded Young Australian of the Year in 2011, Watson is the youngest person to ever sail around the world solo and unassisted, having completed the global voyage when she was 16 years old.

Watson’s most recent expedition, however, brought her to Lebanon and Jordan, where she visited Syrian refugees. Her “Sail with WFP” initiative recognizes the intimidating journey made by young Syrians who have left their homes for Lebanon or Jordan. As WFP’s Youth Ambassador, Watson provided food and support for suffering families.

Founded in 1961, WFP is the largest hunger fighting organization in the world, supplying food in times of emergency and working with communities to create sustainability. The goal of the organization is to end world hunger and eliminate global poverty. Funded by governments, companies and private individuals, WFP provides annual assistance to more than 80 million people in 75 countries.

In Lebanon, Watson sailed with five Syrian and Lebanese youths from Beirut, Lebanon’s capital, to a northern port. In Jordan, she spent time in the Azraq refugee camp. There, Watson met single Syrian mother Manal and her eight children. She accompanied the family to the camp’s only grocery store, where refugees buy food with electronic food cards from WFP.

Earlier this year, however, WFP had to reduce refugee stipends due to a lack of funding. As a result, the refugee program is 81 percent underfunded and many Syrian families are struggling to stay alive. The organization requires $138 million to continue helping refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, Turkey and Iraq through September.

Watson also visited a Save the Children International youth center in Amman, Jordan’s capital, and hopes her journey will bring attention to the hardships faced by the Syrian people. A WFP Youth Ambassador since her young global voyage, Watson sails towards a new, hunger-free future.

Sarah Sheppard

Sources: WFP 1, WFP 2, WFP 3
Photo: News Pronto

Harry_Styles

On July 27, Harry Styles of One Direction spoke in a video sanctioned by his campaign, action/1D, about his views on global education and those who deserve a better quality of life.

“I want to live in a world where every child can go to school,” Styles said at the beginning of the video.

Styles, along with bandmates Louis Tomlinson, Liam Payne and Niall Horan, recently launched the action/1D campaign to inspire fans and promote awareness for global education, poverty, climate change, disease and inequality.

With action/1D, supporters can get involved in the campaign by posting pictures and videos that correspond to a topic related to the cause. Fans of One Direction can also catch the boys in videos where each band member will begin with the phrase: “I want to live in a world where…”

In Styles’ video, he spoke about how much he enjoyed school, and the children that he met in Ghana who dream of getting an education. These children cannot afford school, Styles said, and they spend their days working instead of learning.

“At the moment, they have to work all day every day just to earn enough to eat,” Styles said.
The “What Makes You Beautiful” singer brings light to a continuing problem.

According to UNICEF, there are almost 624,000 children not in primary school. Those who do receive an education do not learn the tools required to be successful in secondary school or professional work.

“Often, the school environment is not conducive to learning: classes are overcrowded, water and sanitation facilities are lacking and trained teachers and school books are in short supply,” UNICEF reports.

For those children with disabiliites, education is even more difficult to attain. According to the 2010 national census, 20% of children with physical disabilities are not attending school.

In addition, gender inequality does not provide for an equal amount of girls in school as boys. The national average amount of education is seven years, and in Northern Ghana, girls attend school for just three years.

“Making education available to 100 percent of people around the world is one way to ensure that poverty declines,” the article said.

Along with The Borgen Project, Styles and other members of action/1D agree that education a key to ending extreme poverty. One Direction’s campaign, which is associated with a similar organization, action/2015, seeks to create a world where education, along with health, climate change and inequality, are no longer a problem.

This year, two U.N. summits will gather some of the most influential people in the world. During each conference, these leaders will formulate plans to fix these issues.

With the help of these conferences, numerous humanitarian organizations and Styles, extreme poverty just might end; as Styles pointed out in his video, this change can begin with education.

“Going to school could literally change their lives, but for now, all they can look forward to is a life of struggle, and they deserve so much more,” he said.

Action/1D asks fans of the band to group together to make a difference. To contribute to the cause and to learn more about the campaign, visit the action/1D website.

Fallon Lineberger

Sources: Action/1D 1, Action/1D 2, Action/2015, The Borgen Project, United States Census, Twitter, UNICEF
Photo: Sugarscape